Concurrent and Predictive Validity of Drug Use and Psychiatric Diagnosis Among First-Time DWI Offenders


  • This research was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grant RO1—AA09098 (SSO) and National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant T32—DA07238.

Reprint requests: Rebekka S. Palmer, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Clinical Research Unit, 1 Long Wharf Dr., Suite 10, New Haven, CT 06511; Fax: 203-781-4705; E-mail:


Background: Previous studies have found that driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders report high rates of substance dependence and other psychiatric disorders.

Method: The current study evaluated the prevalence, clinical correlates at program admission, and prognostic significance over a 1-year follow-up of 2 diagnostic subgroup variables (drug abuse or dependence; mood or anxiety disorder) among 290 first-time DWI offenders receiving group counseling interventions.

Results: A lifetime diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence (42% of sample) was associated with higher levels of alcohol consumption, lower coping confidence, greater readiness to change, increased alcohol, drug, and legal problems, and more alcohol-related negative consequences at the initiation of DWI intervention. Significant decreases in drinking were noted at intervention termination for the drug diagnoses subgroup, but were not sustained at 1-year follow-up. The presence of a lifetime diagnosis of anxiety or mood disorder (30% of sample) was associated with lower coping confidence, greater readiness to change, and with greater and more enduring negative consequences of drinking during the DWI intervention and 1-year follow-up period.

Conclusions: Results suggest that a psychiatric diagnosis might guide the intervention and aftercare planning for DWI offenders to reduce recidivism and drinking.